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Dancing restored to its rightful place in graceful production of ‘A Chorus Line’

PUBLISHED: 15:25 07 March 2013 | UPDATED: 16:48 07 March 2013

at the London Palladium

at the London Palladium

Manuel Harlan

A Chorus Line

London Palladium

HHHHI

What a treat to have the heart and soul of Broadway transfer to London! Barring a few brilliant exceptions (go and see Matilda now), London’s musical theatre scene has felt a little threadbare recently. I’m just not sure I can hack another jukebox musical. But A Chorus Line is a genuine classic, packed with sass and sparkle.

There’s a whiff of The X Factor to A Chorus Line but with one key difference: it’s soulful rather than soul-destroying.

The show unfurls on a day of intensive auditions for a Broadway show during which a group of hopeful dancers are being put through their whirling, swirling paces. At the end of the day, just eight contenders will make it through.

Michael Bennett, who conceived, choreographed and directed the original 1975 production, based the show around a series of interviews with veteran Broadway performers. The script buzzes with authentic spirit and all the back stories, which emerge via Martin Hamlisch’s inventive score, ring true.

Pared back

There’s also a refreshing lack of razzle dazzle here – except for a few brilliant explosions of sparkle. The action plays on a near-empty stage, with just a huge mirror lining the back wall that creates endless reflections, lending the impression of millions of anonymous performers dancing in tandem.

The original choreography (meticulously restored by director Bob Avian) threads the show together with distinctive and elegant grace. It is not the script but the dancing, which leads us through this story. The musical never stops moving, sliding, tapping and twirling from one scene to the next.

Individual performers burst out of the chorus line for their moment in the spotlight. Scarlett Strallen dazzles in The Music and The Mirror, her body bending and twisting with precise fluidity. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt – all fire and swagger – absolutely nails the show’s big ballad, What I Did For Love. The heart of this musical thumps wildly during this rousing and inspiring final number.

Until January 2014.

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